The 8 Primal Cuts of Beef and How to Cook Them

Beef is one of the most popular meats, and mastering the different cuts is key to exceptional dishes. There are 8 main primal cuts of beef that provide the foundational cuts we find at the grocery store. Understanding the primal beef cuts, where they come from on the cow, and how to cook them ensures you get the most flavor and value from this incredible ingredient.

What are Primal Cuts of Beef?

Primal cuts are the first large chunks of meat that are separated from the carcass during butchering. These basic categories then get divided into the retail cuts we buy like ribs, tenderloin, brisket, etc.

The 8 primal cuts of beef are:

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Loin
  • Round
  • Shank
  • Plate
  • Flank
  • Brisket

Below is more detail on the characteristics and best cooking methods for each primal cut:

Chuck Primal Cut

The chuck comes from the front shoulder and neck region. It contains a lot of connective tissue so benefits from slow cooking.

Subprimal chuck cuts:

  • Chuck roast
  • Chuck steak
  • Chuck short ribs
  • Shoulder tender

Best cooking methods:

  • Braising
  • Stewing
  • Grilling/smoking shoulders and neck cuts

Rib Primal Cut

This high-fat content cut comes from along the upper back behind the chuck. It contains premium iconic steaks.

Subprimal rib cuts:

  • Ribeye steak
  • Rib roast
  • Ribeye roast
  • Back ribs
  • Short ribs

Best cooking methods:

  • Quick grilling for steaks
  • Roasting rib roasts
  • Smoking/braising ribs

Loin Primal Cut

Coming from the lower back region, the loin provides the most tender, desirable steaks.

Subprimal loin cuts:

  • Tenderloin
  • Strip steak
  • T-bone steak
  • Porterhouse steak
  • Top loin

Best cooking methods:

  • Grilling
  • Pan-searing
  • Broiling

Round Primal Cut

This lean cut comes from the rear of the cow. It’s budget-friendly but requires slow moist cooking.

Subprimal round cuts:

  • Eye of round
  • Top round
  • Bottom round
  • Round tip

Best cooking methods:

  • Braising
  • Stewing
  • Slow roasting

Shank Primal Cut

The shank comes from the legs, containing lots of collagen for rich flavor after long cooking.

Subprimal shank cuts:

  • Foreshank
  • Hindshank

Best cooking methods:

  • Braising
  • Stewing into soups/stews

Plate Primal Cut

From the belly region, the plate contains short ribs along with other flavorful cuts.

Subprimal plate cuts:

  • Short ribs
  • Skirt steak
  • Hanger steak
  • Ground beef

Best cooking methods:

  • Grilling skirt and hanger steaks
  • Braising short ribs

Flank Primal Cut

This abdomen region cut is lean and contains flavorful steaks when sliced properly across the grain.

Subprimal flank cuts:

  • Flank steak
  • London broil
  • Ground beef

Best cooking methods:

  • Marinating then grilling flank steak
  • Thin slicing flank steak across the grain

Brisket Primal Cut

The breast region which gets a lot of exercise produces flavorful but tough brisket requiring moist heat cooking.

Subprimal brisket cuts:

  • Flat cut brisket
  • Point cut brisket

Best cooking methods:

  • Slow smoking
  • Braising

Tips for Cooking Primal Beef Cuts

  • Use dry heat grilling or broiling for naturally tender loin and rib cuts.

  • Braise or stew tough primal cuts like chuck, round, and shank.

  • Smoke brisket and beef ribs low and slow for tender, juicy results.

  • Slice across the grain of cuts like flank steak to maximize tenderness.

  • Pound out steaks to an even thickness before cooking.

  • Don’t overcook steaks; shoot for medium rare to medium doneness.

Benefits of Understanding Primal Cuts

There are several advantages to learning about primal cuts when buying and preparing beef:

  • You can select the right primal cut for your desired cooking method.

  • Identifying where primal cuts come from helps with preparing appropriate recipes.

  • Less tender cuts become delicious when cooked properly through slow, moist heat.

  • You can hone techniques like slicing across the grain for tenderness.

  • Knowledge of primal cuts allows you to stretch your budget via less costly tough cuts.

  • You can plan meals according to cooking times for tough versus tender cuts.

  • Understanding primal cuts leads to well-prepared, delicious beef dishes.

The 8 primal beef cuts each bring unique qualities to the table. By learning their characteristics you can bring out the best in each one. A T-bone and brisket require vastly different handling to reach their ultimate enjoyment potential. Mastering the fundamentals of these primal beef cuts provides a great foundation for culinary success.

Beef Primal Cuts


What are the 9 primal cuts of beef?

The primal cuts of beef are the chuck, brisket and shank, rib, short plate, short loin, sirloin, flank and round. It is important to know the location of bones when cutting or working with meats.

What are the 7 beef primals?

Short rib (H) 7-bone rib (G)
Square chuck
Neck (M) Blade (L) Shoulder (N) Cross rib (K)
Brisket point (J) Brisket plate (I)
Fore shank
No further break down required (O)

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